American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
P.O. Box 819
Spring Green, WI 53588
Box Office: 608-588-2361
By Ted C. Fishman, New City Stage
Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play gets a faithful treatment in APT’s 2022 production directed by Tasia A. Jones. The director has strong ties to Chicago. And, through Writers Theatre’s “MLK Project,” she’s steeped in the era in Chicago in which “Raisin” unfolds. The play famously takes place in a part of the city’s African American South Side where the five-person Younger family occupies a small, decaying kitchenette apartment. There, they dream of a better life and better world.
They also fight against the seemingly inevitable poverty and structural constraints that suppress Black Americans. The college-aged daughter, the unsubtly named Beneatha, latches onto the promise of rising Black nationalism in Africa and Afrocentrism at home. An angry adult son, Walter Lee, a kind of Black Willy Loman (note the initials), desperately hopes to lift his fortunes with an investment in a liquor store arranged by a fishy drinking buddy. Beneatha and Walter are the two most overtly forceful characters in Hansberry’s play, but the spiritual centers of the drama are the two mothers, the family’s widowed matriarch Lena and Walter’s long-suffering wife Ruth. In her director’s note, Jones writes that “most productions place Walter Lee Younger, Jr. at the center of the story because of the depth of his passion, [but] I see [Ruth and Lena] quietly holding their family together and carrying the weight of the world as they do it.” Lena’s moral hold on the family is rooted in her strong adherence to God and insistence that the family stay together and work for their overall well-being. More immediately she has power over the rest through the famously promised check for $10,000 that is due to arrive as the death benefit from an insurance policy her husband paid for from his hard-earned, meager salary. Ten thousand dollars then equals roughly a hundred thousand today.